Jen Olive

Warm Robot

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No question that Jen Olive had a lucky boost with Andy Partridge both signing her to his label and helping with production, and she'd be the first to admit it -- and it certainly doesn't surprise at all that both are major Beach Boys fiends, as the sweeping harmonies on "Robot Boy" alone show, just one example of many throughout. But at its best, Warm Robot's understated, thoroughly enjoyable guitar pop shows that Olive's strengths are her own. Starting with the guitar/vocal-only "Boulevard," her gently reverbed voice still possessing a clear, clean edge, Olive if anything sounds at once from an earlier time and from now. Besides the Brian Wilson love -- and after a slew of bands that treat their own worship as an excuse to indulge endlessly in only the most extreme manifestations of his work, it's refreshing to hear her use it as an element but not a raison d’être -- there's almost an echo of the lush textures and quiet elegance of early Butterfly Child (or even the Cocteau Twins!) on "Set It on Fire" and "Querquehouse." The sharp, yearning drama of the chorus and breaks, vocals constantly playing off each other, helps Olive make her own mark more clearly. At its most ambitious, on the involving wall-of-sound flow of "So Funny" and "Franscrams!," Olive gives a sense as to what her future work might lead to, while the tight guitar figures on "Wire Wire" and the great descending choruses on "All My Heads Meet," the latter with a guitar line that is pure 1972 glam, are further confections on an excellent release.

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